Cinema - 100 Years

Israel defines herself as a Jewish state which belongs to the entire Jewish people. Accordingly, it is not uncommon to find Israeli stamps featuring prominent Jews in such areas as music, science, art, literature, etc., even though these Jews are not famous because of their contribution to Zionism or Jewish philosophy. The featured stamp falls in this category.

The following words were written by Shlomo Shamgar, a known Israeli film critic in the 1960's and 1970's, when the stamp was issued (1995):

The stamp shows the portraits of seven Jewish movie stars who graced the youngest of art forms with their talents.

The Marx Brothers –
Groucho, Chico, and Harpo were three native New Yorkers, the sons of a tailor from Alsace, who inherited their talent from their ambitious mother who came from a family of theatrical performers. From the 1930's on through the 1950's, they were the kings of lively absurd anarchical comedy, which conquered the hearts of both the masses and the intellectuals. A number of their wild farces have become classics, shown time and again for each new generation of cinema goers. The most famous of these are A Night at the Opera and A Night In Casablanca.

Peter Sellers (1925 - 1980) –
Attained fame in British and Hollywood pictures due to roles such as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films, Dr. Strangelove, The Mouse that Roared, and What's New Pussycat? Sellers was the ultimate artist of masquerade, with a talent for playing half a dozen roles in a single film. He was related on his mother's side to the famous British Jewish boxer, Daniel Mendoza.

Simone Signoret (1921 - 1985) –
Born in Wiesbaden, Germany, while her father was serving with the French occupation forces. Signoret was married to the famous French actor singer Yves Montand.

She first attained fame as an excellent actress in her own right with her appearance in The Golden Helmet, produced in 1952. The Cat, La Vie Devant Soi Madame Rosa, and The Confession are among her films in which she gave her most unforgettable performances.

Danny Kaye (1913 - 1987) –
Born David Daniel Kaminski, the son of a New York tailor. Danny Kaye attained fame as a comedian during the Second World War. He continued to amaze and charm his audiences both as an entertainer and an agile tongued singer. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Inspector General, Hans Christian Andersen, Me and the Colonel and The Madwoman of Chaillot are all screen monuments to his great talents. Danny Kaye served as the 'roving ambassador' for UNICEF. He proved a loyal friend to Israel and visited the country on several occasions.

Al Jolson (1886- 1950) –
The star of the first talking picture in history, The Jazz Singer (1927), was born in Czarist Russia, the son of cantor Moshe Yoelson, and grew up in New York. His stardom was based on his electrifying performances, and his appearances in blackface became his trademark. In 1928 he starred in The Singing Fool, singing Sunny Boy, which became a hit overnight.

The array of Jewish stars on the silver screen ranges from Sarah Bernhardt to Barbra Streisand, from Edward G. Robinson to Harrison Ford, from Lauren Bacall to Dustin Hoffman, from Leslie Howard to Erich Von Stroheim [a list on the IMDb website lists 511 Jewish Actors and Actresses, including current (2013) stars: Scarlett Johansson, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Robert Downey Jr., Sacha Baron Cohen, Shia LaBeouf, Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Rachel Weisz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Day-Lewis, Michael Douglas, Jesse Eisenberg, Kate Hudson, Sean Penn and many more; T.B.] .

The Jewish contribution behind the scenes was even greater: the Warner brothers were Hollywood's pioneers and founded the major studios; Jewish producers laid the foundations of the movie industry not only in the United States, but also in Sweden, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Great Britain, France and other countries. The names of renowned directors, such as Sergei Eisenstein, George Cukor, Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Aleksander Ford and others are proof of the talents of the Jewish people around the globe. Jews such as Steven Spielberg, Claude Lelouche, Woody Allen, Milos Forman and others continue to lead the parade of talents, which also includes a number of outstanding scriptwriters and composers.

The Tenth Muse has come a long way ever since that historical evening on December 28, 1895, when the inventors August and Louis Lumiere held the first successful screening, in the basement of the 'Grand Cafe', on the Boulevard des Capucines 14, in Paris, France. Americans believe that the honor of the premiere belongs not to the French brothers, but rather to the greatest of American inventors, Thomas Alva Edison, who held the first public commercial screening on April 23, 1896. (Incidentally, few know that as early as 1903, Edison's company produced two films with Jewish themes: Arabian Jewish Dance and A Jewish Dance at Jerusalem.)

The disparity in the race between Edison and the Lumiere brothers was nominal. The French showed greater strength in the artistic side of cinematography, while the Americans demonstrated greater talents in the technical and commercial aspects of the industry. At any rate, there is no doubt that the joint cornerstone for this universal medium was laid one hundred years ago. Cinema was destined to conquer both the old world and the new, to ignite our imagination, and to affect our reality radically.

The stamp was issued in 1995, design: Moshe Pereg.